Highway to Hell

Several weeks ago, an email chain I had with a friend devolved into suggestions for writings.  I started thinking about some of the suggestions and realized that they were actually extremely good suggestions.  Some of them supported my belief in the open sharing of knowledge, while others would send me down the road to an extremely fruitfull thought process and self-inventory.

The suggestion that drew me the strongest was “…about what it takes for you, Scott Bowe, to win IM of be first amateur. I’m curious to know what the macrocycle of your year would be likely — how to address limiters (how many weeks dedicated to a limiter, when to address one limiter, can and should one address two limiters at the same time)….”.  It drew to me because I realized that I have not sat down and really revisited a long[er] term plan for myself since prior to qualifying for Hawaii.  I went through 2008 and 2009 just doing, without a lot of high level direction.  While that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s probably not optimum. As a result, I sat down and took some time (4 weeks actual)  to think about this, and document my thoughts to create a conceptual plan.

So what’s the goal?  There isn’t a lot of beating around the bush when it comes to that – First Amateur – is pretty easy to quantify.  You either beat all comers, or you don’t.  However – I’ve also been reading a lot of Taoist material lately – and that sort of a goal doesn’t exactly fit well with the thought process I am trying to cultivate within myself.  Fortunately enough, not long ago I quantified that goal in a way that can let me judge myself a success without necessarily accomplishing such a hard and fast goal – and more importantly focuses the measures and attention internally rather than externally.  To sum up the linked post: 1:28 / 100 LCM; 250 watts average Bike Split; Run 3:12 – I’ve gone ahead and made a few revisions to that for me:

  • Swim – 52 minutes (allows to have the swim + transition under 60 minutes)
  • Bike: 250 watts
  • Run: 3:05

I adjusted the run downwards – because my early 3:12 I just felt was to “easy” of a target; perhaps not, but at this point it’s just a number.  To flesh out these requirements a bit more, it translates into a bike FTP of around 350 watts, and a running VDOT of about 64.  The swim is just a matter of training correctly (for me at least).

So those are the requirements, FTP = 350 watts, VDOT 64.  Done, time to go train right?  Not exactly.  At it’s peak I estimate that my FTP has been around 320 watts and my VDOT at 58/59 – which leads me a bit short.  Honestly that’s a fair bit short in both places, prior to this year I would have simply plowed ahead and tried to build both up at the same time.  However, experiencing a large layoff from all three sports and witnessing the return to fitness and form – I feel entirely comfortable breaking this into focuses.  I mean really it’s unavoidable, trying to go from a VDOT of 45 (starting point after surgery) to 64 while trying to build my FTP to 10% above life best – is a bit unrealistic.

So 2010 (the remainder of), I intend to focus on my bike.  The goal is to build my FTP to as high as possible – with the target being 350.  This year running will be the weak link, and I’m simply going to focus on running sensibly and letting the fitness return at a natural pace – primarily so that I can focus on cycling.  The intention is to do 1 quality bike workout mid-week – that includes 40-60 minutes of FTP work and a weekend ride that includes several sets of shorter FTP intervals, or several longer intervals around HIM effort.  With the meaty portions of the remaining rides of the week of SST effort

The winter of 2011 will be focused on running and cycling maintenance.  In a large turn of opinion for me, once Tri season is done this year, I will largely neglect my swimming to focus on improving my weak links.  In the past I was adamantly against anything but balanced training, but after this winter I think it’s the smart thing to do.  During this period – hopefully around 16 weeks in length – I’m going to do my best to run like a runner, and do only a few cycling workouts to maintain my cycling as much as possible.  Swimming will probably only be a recovery tool.  I don’t know what will happen exactly, but 60-80+ miles per week seems what might be appropriate (but that’s a lot of running), but a VDOT of 64 is hella fast and the only way to close the gap is to suck it up and run.  I will also have to start incorporating strides into my running to help buid my economy.  I’ll sort of launch this runner version of me by doing the Milwaukee Lakefront marathon and using that as a point of feedback of my true running form – although the true run focus won’t begin until late November.  I’m on the fence about when, where and if tempo running has a place in this high volume period of running.  Likely it won’t as it will be struggle enough to run 10 hours a week – I’ll likely save the tempo running for later in the year of 2011.

I’d like to try and return to structured “triathlon” training sometime in Mid-march (about the time I did this year actually) – and take a stab at the Triple-T again and hit it under more optimum conditions than this year.  This 8 or 9 week period will likely be focused on the skill set required to excel at a hilly Olympic distance race, stretching into a hilly half iron distance.

After the Triple-T, which is about 16 weeks out from IMWI 2011, I’ll need to do a brief inventory of my status and turn to a tried and true structure of preparation for an Ironman.

So in less than 1,000 words, I’ve laid out my plan to go real-fast.  Will it work?  Maybe.  Will I successfully execute it?  I hope so.  However, if I fail in executing it, there’s no chance it will work.  I’ve previously laid out some plans like this before and have failed in their execution – perhaps the plans were to complicated, my motivation/focus was lacking, or maybe I wasn’t ready to do something of that nature yet.  That said – I’ve also laid out plans like this and succeeded.  The next 18 months will be interesting to watch if I’m capable of holding to the plan or not and what results it will yield.

As an addendum to this, there are two additional facets I need to address that I think will be crucial to my success of following this path.  The first is nutrition – in the last month I’ve really made an effort to shift my eating to less processed foods, cutting things like High Fructose Corn Syrup Out – basically more natural foods.  I have actually given up S’mores pop tarts.  I don’t expect or intend to go down that route completely in the near future, but I’m taking steps to head in that direction, and allowing myself occasional indulgences (the Double Down is good, but not *that* good).  This shift, should help with my body composition, energy level, health, recovery, body weight, and just about everything.

The second facet that I feel is crucial is thought process – as I mentioned earlier I’ve been reading a bit of eastern philosophy and to me it makes sense and works.  I think shifting my focus onto the “correct” things is another positive force that will help drive me down the path I want to follow.  If you are looking for a good book to read – checking “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind”  Essentially, the important part of the next 18 months from a triathlon perspective is to remain true to myself and my path and my expectations – and let the results flow from that.  If I can accomplish *that* the result will be sweet no matter what the results say on paper.

Short update

I just posted my Triple T race report.  It was an excellent race, and all of my expectations going into it were blown away.  It’s amazing what consistant hard work can do.  Now my job is to just keep backing it up with great (enjoyable) training!

I’ve got two “good” posts in the works – watch for atleast one of them to show up later this week

American Triple T 2010

2010 Triple T Race Notes


The Triple-T prologue always catches me by surprise, despite my background as a sprinter in college swimming “ I have a difficult time spinning the engine up to the necessary level.  Despite a good warm-up prior to the race, this year was no exception.  The swim and the bike went well enough.  My plan was to ride the beginning of the ride and the climb just slightly above threshold “ get to the turn around and coast back down “ than run a mile.  The plan worked well and I rolled in a pretty decent time, over a minute and a half back from the winner.  Mostly I was glad to get through the race without feeling like I had tweaked any muscles, along with the pleasant surprise of not being completely dusted.


The course for Saturday’s first race was changed from the traditional bike course to the Saturday PM bike course due to a tree blocking the road that fell during the storm on Friday night.  I think this suited me a bit more as the PM course lends itself to a bit more of rhythm riding “ rather than constant up and down cycles.

Even though Matt and I were starting together, the Saturday AM race is an individual TT “ since Matt was planning to take it easy on the swim “ as soon as we were given the signal to start I left him behind.  I went through the swim strong, steadily building into it.  Around 5 or 6 hundred meters in I got buzzed by the John Kenny motorboat “ I don’t think I’ve someone ever been passed that quickly in a tri before.  I hit transition in a touch under 20 minutes, and hit my bike.   I was able to catch a glimpse of Matt as I doubled back past transition and saw him about a minute behind me.

The Saturday PM course (which we were riding today) “ is a long [not]false flat for a few miles, followed by a nice climb, a downhill, a mile or so flat, a nice climb, some rollers, a wicked decent, than a flat section to the turnaround, and then it’s all in reverse.  My plan for the ride was to not limit myself  at threshold watts, but to limit myself away from insane watts “ in short I was counting that my fitness has increased since Saint A’s and my perceived effort combined with a knowledge of what is unrealistic would keep me safe.

I didn’t pass to many people, but was passed by only a couple, I rolled into transition with a split right around 72 minutes “ given the hills and the technical nature of the descents average power is pretty meaningless “ but my Normalized power was 277 “ which is excellent.

Heading onto the run, I was carrying my wife’s Garmin “ which I intended to use similar to my SRM on the bike “ try and keep things from heading towards insane “ and rely on PE.  The main goal was to simply get through the run without feeling like I had overexerted myself.

The TTT run course is essentially an uphill trail run for about 2.75 miles, downhill for a half mile, than turn around and run back; Once each for each Saturday race “ twice on Sunday.   The course itself is hard to describe, but basically each direction of the run course has one climb equal to or worse than Observatory hill on the IMWI run course.

Watching the Garmin I was pretty surprised that my PE was taking me to about 7:30 miles going out, and 6:40’s on the way back yielding a mid-46 for 6.55 miles.  Not too bad.  I kept waiting for the hammer to fall, but it never did.

Saturday PM

I left the race site Saturday morning with my expectations for the entire weekend already blown away.  My bike fitness nearly equal to 2008 and 2009 in terms of FTP “ and my run closing down the gap to previous years here.  Of course I did have some doubts about my depth of fitness since I was toeing the line with only 7 weeks of run training and 10 weeks of real bike training.   But the Saturday PM would help uncover that “ I’d either fold spectacularly (and miserable) or I’d hold the line in the sand.  Fortunately since the PM race is a team time trial, I would have Matt there to help with any rough spots.

Saturday PM is a unique race format “ Bike, Swim, Run.  After you’ve done the race, you realize that it’s a much harder format than the traditional one “ IMO it’s the way a tri should always be run.

The plan was for me to do most of the wind breaking on the bike since I out split Matt in the AM, and I had brought all my aero toys and Matt was lacking.  Matt’s job was to pace me up the hills, and pull through at any key moments or if I popped.

70 minutes after we departed we rolled into transition 100% intact, contrary to 2008 and 2009 where I spent most of the ride suffering in Matt’s draft hoping for the bike to end, I felt as if we had stayed 100% within my fitness.  Matt towed me up the hills, and gave me a couple minutes of rest shortly after the turn around as he hauled us up to and past a team up the road.

Matt and I tossed on our wetsuits as quick as we could and headed for the water.  Since my run was definitely going to be slower than Matt’s the plan was for me to hit the swim fairly hard and get out onto the run course and let Matt catch up.  I got through the swim only a handful of seconds slower than the AM and was leaving transition as Matt came in.

We cruised through the run, again pleasantly surprised.  I was waiting for my body to pop the entire run, but it never did.  I wasn’t crushing it, but I was holding my own.  My run split was actually faster than 2009, and only 3 minutes and change slower than 2008.

I went to bed Saturday knowing we were comfortably in second place OA in the male team division.  The first place team was most likely out of reach barring a disaster on their part, and my job for Sunday was to get through the race in one piece.


When I woke up on Sunday morning my legs felt sore and tired, but surprisingly ready.  The plan for the day was for Matt and me to swim our paces, and for me to wait in transition.  I got through the swim without event feeling good “ trying to ease into it and use it as a warm-up for the rest of the day.

Matt showed up in transition just behind me and we were out on the bike quickly.  Initially the plan was for me to break the wind and pace us through the race at an aggressive Ironman effort with Matt pacing up the 2 climbs on the HIM course, but after 20 minutes or so matt and I settled into 3-4 minute rotations of work.  I don’t know how it felt from Matt’s perspective, but sitting in for those 3-4 minutes was a great rest and really made it easy to drive the desired pace when I was in front.

Unlike last year the first loop was fairly uneventful, we made it past the spot of the crash last year without a problem.  We did have an interesting moment at the bottom of the Big Run fire road descent, as I went into a right hand turn I realized I had misjudged the angle slightly and ended up riding into the yard bordering it and cyclocrossing it for a bit.  Just practice for the Cheq40 I say¦

The remainder of the ride was uneventful “ we managed to ride a couple minutes faster than 2008 with a 2:58 or 2:59.

The 13.1 mile run was the final test of the weekend.  Not only was it going to be a half marathon after a weekend of madness, it was going to be my longest run since last October.  My game plan was to use the Garmin to keep away from insanity, and let my PE guide me.  I intended to run as if the race ended at 10.5 miles, as that is the point of the run were it is downhill to the finish.  I figured I could ring 2.5 downhill miles out of my shattered body “ I just needed to make sure I got there.

The first loop went without a problem, I tried to not look at the Garmin often “ I was worried that it might start making my brain think too much.  My job was to just get my ass to mile 10.5 and then roll downhill “ so that was all I tried to focus on.  At half way I checked our time and we were right around 52:30 which meant we were on pace for a spectacular run.

Things continued uneventfully until around mile 9 which is a wicked uphill into an aid station and the peak of the run before you plummet to the turn around.  I nearly broke on that hill, alarms started going off like crazy in my head.  I did my best to ignore them and rewarded myself with a brief couple of walking steps through the aid station and then continued to the top of the run course.

During the downhill towards the turnaround I had a couple doubts about my ability to get back up the hill “ fortunately about that time Matt told me to let him know if and when I needed a push.  Just a few minutes later I was crusing back downhill past the 10.5 mile mark re-energized and ready to finish.

Matt and I crossed the line with a run split just under 1:47.  Which means I faded by less than 2 minutes on the second loop.  Best of all Matt and I finished this year, and finished in 2nd OA in the Male Team division.
This weekend exceeded every one of my expectations for it “ I did not expect it to go nearly as well as it did.  It’s impossible to describe how much this weekend reaffirmed my love for the sport of triathlon and my motivation to continue the love/hate relationship with it.  I have a great deal of excitement for the remainder of the season; I just need to temper the enthusiasm with continued hard work and consistency.